Monday, April 30, 2012

Whatta Weekend!

Our son was camping with the Boy Scouts this weekend, but there was no time for romantic candlelight dinners and lazy evenings in front of the fireplace for us. Friday evening we worked at a "Casino Knight" the Knights of Columbus was sponsoring in to support our youth group participating in Work Camp this summer. I helped set up Friday afternoon, then worked the bar all evening. The evening was spent pouring lager for volunteers and players; Boston Lager, Yuengling Lager, and Michelob Ultra (barely a) Lager. Of course, there were a few, ahem, "off-menu" beers available to the bartender and those in the know. :-)

On Saturday morning, we rose early to start the day. I did sneak off for a few hours to meet up with some new shooting friends at the local indoor range. That was a blast (pun intended.) After a couple hours at home, Colleen and I were off to volunteer at the Bingo Hall in support of our son's high school. That made for another long evening. This is the second time we've helped at this activity, and I must say, it's a whole new world for me. Those people are serious about their Bingo! (And it's a successful, and much needed, fund raiser for the school.) The only downside of the evening is the frequent venture into the smoking section of the bingo hall. It's more intense than any smoky bar from days past.

I did have time for a pint of New Belgium Snow Day with some leftover pizza as a late-night treat before heading to bed. I had found a forgotten case of this winter delight in the basement this week and it was just the thing with which to unwind.

Sunday morning we arose bright and early for Mass. Okay, perhaps not so much bright, but early. Our son was due home mid-morning so we went to an early Mass in order to be available to pick him up. While driving him home we experienced the second batch of smoke-drenched clothes this weekend. I must say the camp smoke is much more pleasant than the cigarette-based version we had the previous night!

After a quick trip to the grocery store I settled down for some relaxing reading napping. Later Sunday afternoon our regular shooting friend came to visit and we headed out to the range. We worked in the pistol bay for awhile, before heading over to the shotgun field. The shotgun is a new weapon we've started working with to increase our skill set. It was a good time shooting at static clays, while moving and reloading. That's a subject for a future blog post so stay tuned.

Home from the range, I cracked open a Bell's Pale Ale and threw some steaks on the grill. Both the steaks and the beer where products of the grocery store run mentioned above.

We probably couldn't have packed anymore into the weekend. Two events for good causes, two range trips, some good beers and good food made for two fun days. That's what weekends are all about!

Ah, Monday. Time to start planning for next weekend.

Sunday, April 29, 2012


A group of local blogging and shooting enthusiasts got together Saturday morning at a nearby indoor range. I had a free morning so I joined them for some fun conversation and shooting. It was great to finally put faces on some folks from my blog roll (and add a couple more blogs to the list.) MSgt B from My Muse Shanked Me and Broken Andy, who blogs at In Search of the Tempetuous Sea, are frequent commenters on these Musings. We were also joined by CTone (Legion's Fate), AGirl (A Girl and Her Gun), and Nancy R (Excels at Nothing). Unfortunately Nancy, and Sweet Daughter, couldn't join us for the shooting part this time but it was great they came out to meet everyone.

We arrived about an hour before the range opened and spent some time shooting the breeze in the parking lot. As we saw a line beginning to form at the door, we headed over and took our place in line. The range fills up fast on Saturday morning. We got checked in and took our positions at three adjoining lanes. This was the first time in probably two years that I've shot indoors. Although I prefer shooting outdoors, it was good to experience the added distraction of the indoor range noise again. I did opt for the static ear muffs, instead of the electronic ones I usually wear.

I've often said gun people are an exceptionally friendly group. (Not sure why the leftist media can't figure that out.) And this group was no exception. We spent about an hour shooting each others guns and just having a good, and safe, time. It was fun to shoot a couple of new (to me) pistols. Most everyone in the group had previously meet some, or all, of the others. I may have been the only totally new face. But I think we'd all read enough of each others' writings that we were not total strangers.

After shooting we headed out to a local cafe for coffee (but no pie.) More fun conversation followed until we all decided it was time to head home and start on the usual Saturday chores and plans. I think we'll do it again.

Other reports of the blogshoot:
From AGirl
From Nancy R
From MSgt B
From CTone
From Andy

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Blog Roll Updates

I added a few new links this weekend. I'm guessing you'll enjoy them too.

Gilly In The Pines
I found Gilly after he found me. There's much to like over at his blog; beer, food, and observations on life.

Legion's Fate
I've followed CTone's blog for a while now, but had neglected to link it. I got to meet him in person at this weekend's blogshoot. All manner of shootist stuff at CTome's place.

Excels at Nothing
Another local blogger I met at the Blogshoot. Interesting, and eclectic blogging over there.

Saintly Beer

Credit: Darlene Dela Cruz | CNS
I don't typically read our diocesan newspaper for beer news, but it's there too. This week there is an interesting article about Damiaan Donker, a beer named in honor of St. Damien de Veuster of Molokai.
HONOLULU — First, a couple of schools. Then, several U.S. parishes. Now ... a fine craft beer? 
Many things have been named after St. Damien de Veuster of Molokai, but none was more surprising than a recent discovery at a Whole Foods store in Hawaii -- a bottle of Belgian ale labeled with the likeness of St. Damien.  
The beer is called "Damiaan Donker." The name pairs the Dutch words for "Damien" and "dark, strong ale."

Father Damien spent his entire priesthood ministering to the victims of leprosy at the settlement on the island of Molokaʻi, Hawaii. What was meant to be a temporary assignment, turned into a permanent calling. Fr. Damien would eventually lose his life to the once thought to be incurable disease. He died on April 15, 1889, aged 49. This man who gave all for others was declared a Saint by Pope Benedict XVI on October 11, 2009.

While many beers have been named in honor of Saints, Damiaan Donker is certainly honors the most contemporary. The beer is brewed by Brouwerij Kerkom, Belgium. With the Saint's Feast Day approaching on May 10, it is one I will have to seek out.

See "Dark, strong, fruity, Belgian" for more on the Saint and the beer.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Infuse More Hops Into Your Beer

It's no secret that I am a fan of hop-intense beers. I love the "green" flavor of true fresh-hop beers. The folks at Dogfish Head Brewery often push their beers through Randall, the Enamel Animal, something I've experienced a fews times at beer festivals. Now you can get the same intensified hop flavors at home, thanks to the Randall Jr.

Admittedly, I do think this will be more of a novelty, than something for regular consumption. Randall-ized beers can have flavors that can be extreme to a fault. But, that doesn't mean I'm not seriously considering ordering one of these for my next party.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Tasty Weasel Tap Room

My last stop during my quick visit to Longmont, CO, last week was the Tasty Weasel Tap Room at Oskar Blues Brewery. I had been told they regularly tap limited beers, so I was curious to see what they might have. I saw a special beer tapping list, but it turned out I was in between events. In a poor choice of words I ask if they had anything unusual on draught, to which the reply was "All of our beers are unusual." Touché.

I then learned that G'Knight Imperial Red Ale was being served from a nitro tap. G'Knight is a very good beer that takes the sweet malt profile of a Red Ale and ramps it up with citrusy hops, hence the "imperial" in the name. It was one of the beers I had enjoyed the prior evening at the Oskar Blues restaurant, served in the usual CO2 method. The nitrous pour gives the beer a frothy head, but without a side-by-side comparison I couldn't comment on the difference. I'll just say I enjoyed it very much.

I nursed my beer while chatting with other patrons at the bar. I started talking with a couple of guys I had seen drinking over at Left Hand earlier that evening. It turns out they both work at Boulder Brewing Company. How cool is the craft beer world? I was sitting at Oskar Blues, talking about beer with two brewers from Boulder Brewing, after we'd all just departed the Left Hand brewery tasting room.

It also turns out that my visit coincided with the monthly meeting of the Can Can Girls Beer Club. This is a group for women craft beer fans. Later in the evening the bartender brought over some special beers that were left over from the club's tasting. The few of us that were still at the bar were treated to pours of some barrel aged Oskar Blues beers. I didn't bother to take notes but I recall, among others there was a Ten FIDY aged 4 months in whiskey barrels and G'Knight aged in Merlot barrels. I felt privileged to share in these one-off beers.

It was a fun way to end my short visit to Colorado. Each time I visit the greater Denver area I am amazed how many great beer experiences I have. I didn't plan for anything specific, but just happened upon some good times. I think the density of breweries in the neighborhood certainly makes it easy to find good beer, and people to enjoy it with. In comparison, despite sharing the same city name in our mailing address, a visit to my favorite local pub, at Blue & Gray Brewing, requires at about a 30-40 minute drive from home. It's just not as convenient as a 5 minute drive, or even a short walk, as I've enjoyed these past couple of days.

But then again, it's probably good that I can't do these whirlwind beer tours everyday!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Bowman Open House

Unfortunately I had to be out of town and was unable to attend the Bowman Distillery Visitor Center Grand Opening last week. However, beer and whiskey writer Lew Bryson made it to town for the event and recounted his experience at the Whisky Advocate blog.
Yesterday I drove down to Fredericksburg, Virginia for the opening of the new Visitor Center at the A. Smith Bowman distillery, the place most of you know as the maker of Virginia Gentleman bourbon. It is an operation that is, to the best of my knowledge, unique. Bowman gets double-distilled bourbon-mash spirit (from Buffalo Trace, as both are now owned by Sazerac), runs it through their pot still doubler — named “Mary,” after the mother of the Bowman brothers who were officers in the Revolutionary War and settled in Virginia — and then ages the whiskey on-site in new, charred oak barrels (mostly; see below).
Lew reports that Bowman is repositioning itself as a micro-distiller, producing small batches of interesting and limited whiskeys. He also gives our local Brew & Gray Brewing Company a shout out, "the Spotsylvania County tourism folks were very excited about a “Grape to Grain” weekend they’ll be doing in mid-June, featuring Bowman, Blue and Gray Brewing (an established craft brewery in the same business park; excellent beers!), and four Virginia wineries, all of them along the old Richmond, Fredericksburg & Potomac railroad line."

See "A. Smith Bowman opens Visitor Center, turns a page" to read Lew's complete report.

Left Hand Brewery Tasting Room

While in Longmont, CO, my GPS led me on a somewhat circuitous route to the company office. However, that turned out to be a good thing as it took me right past the Left Hand Brewing Company. I hadn't yet researched the specific addresses of local breweries so was pleasantly surprised to see this, and made note of the location.

I returned later in the day, specifically hoping to try the Nitro Milk Stout. I had read about the new bottled distribution of this beer, but really wanted to taste it "fresh." The brewery's tasting room offers both indoor and outdoor seating. I chose a place at the thick, stone-topped bar. I noticed the array of 12 tap handles, two offering beers on nitro, including the Milk Stout. There was also one beer on hand-pulled cask, the Good Juju Ale. I ordered my Milk Stout and waited patiently for the proper pour to be completed.

The Nitro Milk Stout is delivered with a thick, cascading nitro-infused head. There's a pleasant and mild roasted aroma and the mouthfeel is very smooth and creamy. The flavor is that of mild, roasted coffee tinted with sweet chocolate notes. A touch of roasted bitterness lingers in the mouth. Left Hand Milk Stout is a smooth, creamy beer by its nature, but serve it on nitro and it becomes a dessert-like treat.

It was tough to decide what other Left Hand beers to try during my brief visit. Many Left Hand beers are available in Virginia, but having a beer on draft, at the source, beats a well-travelled bottle any day. I was seated right in front of the row of taps, so I could see what others were drinking. Polestar Pilsner and 400 Pound Monkey seemed to be quite popular, and I opted for the latter. 400 Pound Monkey is an English IPA that pours a bright orange color with a thin white head. The aroma is sweet fruit and bread. The flavor is slightly sweet with white fruit notes — apples, grapes, with a hint of caramel. Very enjoyable.

The beer board listed another beer that intrigued me, Fade To Black Vol. 3. Described as a Pepper Porter that's brewed with multiple varieties of chili peppers. I asked for a small sample to try. The beer looked like a standard dark porter. The flavor was rich with dark roasted malts with a mild smokiness. After I swallowed my first sip, I thought "Oh, that's tasty, but where is the chi..." That's as far as the thought went when the peppers made their appearance. I first noticed the chili warmth in the back of my mouth, then even up to my sinuses. Nothing overwhelming, or unpleasant at all, but definitely there. So another sip to confirm. After that I could note the mild roasted peppers in the taste, however the chili notes really shine in the finish, along with some bitterness. I found this to be a surprisingly enjoyable flavor combination. Another time I may try a full pint to see if the the enjoyment lasts, or if it's a few sip novelty.

The Left Hand Tasting Room seemed to be a quite popular after work stop for local residents. Almost everyone appeared to be "a regular" and many folks simply walked up the bar and received their known favorites. There was a neighborhood feel to the place, and service was quick and friendly. It was hard to tear myself away, but I had another local brewery to visit as well, and my time was limited.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Got Nothing Today

Maybe it's the travel last week, followed by a packed weekend, but I've got nothing; neither wise words nor energy. It's like this:

Check back tomorrow.

Stolen from North.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Pumphouse Brewery

During my recent trip to Longmont, CO I stopped in for lunch at Pumphouse Brewery & Restaurant. Located in a converted fire house on main street Longmont, the decor is focused on fire station memorabilia. The brewery itself holds a prominent place in the interior. It was "a good place for a "business lunch

I selected the brewery's Flashpoint IPA. This a classic "American IPA." Bright orange in color with a short-lived white head. The aroma is full of citrus hops, like a fresh squeezed grapefruit. The flavor follows suite with prominent citrus. A bit of bready malt holds it all together. It was certainly an enjoyable IPA. I'm told it's one of the brewery's most popular beers.

For my food selection I had the Cabo Fish Tacos. Beer-battered cod strips were served on soft flour tortillas. Shredded cabbage, cheeses, pico-de-gallo and cilantro-flavored sour cream topped it all. The dish was tasty, but the boldness of the Flashhpoint IPA overpowered the spiciness of the tacos.

Unfortunately I only had time to try out the one Pump House beer. I'll try to do better next time.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Quote of the Day: Life

"Oh, if only life could be nothing more than looking at guns and gear all day followed by drinking and talking with friends all night? Real life can be such a pain."
Amen Brother!

From DaddyBear.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Oskar Blues and a Deviant (Beer)

After hearing the announcement at the Denver airport, I decided it was my duty to check out a few more of the Colorado breweries. Most of my previous trips to the state were in the Denver area, this time my business was in Longmont, CO.

As it turns out, there was an Oskar Blues location right across from my hotel. Well, not exactly right across, walking there required a number of interesting diagonal street crossings and back-tracking. As the hotel desk clerk informed me, "It's close but you can't walk directly there."

Upon arrival I took a seat at the bar, and noted some 40 tap handles, but decided to focus my attention on the 7 devoted to Oskar Blues beers. One of the beers I tried out that evening was Deviant Dale's IPA. That's certainly not one of the Oskar Blues beers we get back East. Like all the brewery's beers, it is shipped cans, this one in a 16 ounce "tall boy." But, like the other beers I enjoyed during my visit, it was served on draught. The beer was a clear amber-orange color with a thin off white head. It looked almost indistinguishable from Dale's Pale Ale. However, the appearance was the only similarity. The aroma was a mix of pine hops and malt, with some grapefruit zest in the background. The sticky, resinous mouthfeel was immediately evident. The flavor was somewhat sweet with strong pine and malt notes. The stickiness lingered bitterly for a quite some time afterwards. I enjoyed Deviant Dale's as I slowly sipped and savored the bold flavors.

For my entrée I selected the Blue Burger and a side of corn and crab fritters. The burgers was enjoyable but I enjoyed the fritters the most. The were crispy on the outside and the crab meat was prominent. I would be inclined to make a meal of them alone.

Oskar Blues has several outposts around the area, and I am told they are looking at other locations as well. It's easy to see why. Even on a Wednesday evening the place was packed. I got there early enough to get a seat at the bar, but soon folks were standing two deep to order their drinks. Good food and good beer. They have it.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

My Kind Of Welcome Message

As I got on the airport tram in Denver, the following welcome message played, or something to this effect.

"This is Mayor Hancock. Welcome to Denver, the Mile High City. Colorado is home to over 100 breweries."

That's it. Nothing else was mentioned. Works for me.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Local Distillery Shows Off

The tours and tastings at Bowman Distillery started last fall, but the Spotsylvania business is holding a grand opening celebration this week to officially unveil the changes its made to attract tourists.
Local and state dignitaries will gather at the A. Smith Bowman Distillery on Thursday to get a firsthand look at the Spotsylvania County facility's transformation into a tourism draw. 
The distillery is holding a grand opening event to unveil the first stage of its progress toward becoming a public attraction. The distillery is now offering public tours and product tastings and has a gift shop selling the company's whiskey, rum, vodka and gin as well as company apparel, used whiskey barrels, glassware, sauces and more.

See "Bowman's getting into the spirit of marketing" for more on the events at Bowman.

Monday, April 16, 2012

UnderDog Atlantic Lager

I received this bottle of Flying Dog UnderDog Atlantic Lager a couple weeks ago and have been looking forward to trying it out. I was interested in seeing (tasting) how Flying Dog would interpret the American Pale Lager.

UnderDog Lager pours a clear, straw yellow; almost cider-like. The bright white head quickly drops to a thin layer. The beer is moderately carbonated. Yeast and wet straw make up the aroma. The taste exhibits bitter, grassy hops with a bit of sweetness. It finishes dry with some lingering bitterness.

I haven't had an American Pale Lager in quite some time, so I have little with which to directly compare the Flying Dog version. I typically wouldn't select the style as a first choice, however, I can see drinking this again. At just 4.7% ABV it doesn't quite qualify as a session beer, but it's not a "big" beer either. It would be a refreshing drink after mowing the lawn, or at an outdoor summer party with friends.

This new addition to the Flying Dog line will be a year-round offering, and available where other Flying Dog beers are sold. Given the typical pushing the limits nature of so many Flying Dog beers, I find it interesting that they are making what could be seen as a move to attract the typical, American non-craft beer drinker.

Disclaimer: This bottle of UnderDog Lager was an unsolicited gift from the brewery. This review written of my own free will.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Diversions Of The Day

Unexpected events at work extended Thursday into Friday, and Friday into Saturday. I spent the vast majority of Saturday with my laptop on my lap and phone in hand. I never thought I'd be so thankful for the ability to communicate via SMS and voice at the same time! I had plans to hit the range during the day but it wasn't looking promising. And then late afternoon there was a lull, when I was waiting for others to complete their parts. So I quickly threw the gear in the car and headed over to the range.

Arriving I was pleasantly surprised to see the club had put down gravel in the pistol bay. No more mud, for a while anyway. But, before I even got out of the car my phone rings again. Then I see another car heading towards the bay. Yikes, if I sit in the car and talk, I'll lose my spot. So I walked with the phone in my ear while I set up targets. The person on the other end never commented on the distant sounds of rifle fire! 

As I left the house I spied my losing Mega Millions ticket on my desk and had stuffed it into my pocket. Once I got to the range I reminded that ticket that things could have been different between us! 

I put about 150 rounds downrange. Mostly working on drawing from the holster and target transitions, as I worked my way back from 7 to 20 yards. I totally forgot work for little while. (Okay, there was that one email that needed answering.) I cleaned up my brass, which was easy to do in the fresh gravel, and headed back home, and back to the task at hand. 

A few more hours on the phone and reviewing documents and I was ready for another break. This time my search for a diversion took me to the basement fridge, where I found a bottle of New Belgium Snow Day. Back to my favorite chair, laptop in place and beer in hand, I found some time to read my favorite blogs before diving back in.

I made a good day of it, despite the unexpected projects at work! I am thankful I have these great hobbies to provide the needed breaks.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Beer = Brain Power

As if we need an excuse to enjoy beer.
Beer makes men smarter. 
So say researchers at the University of Illinois in Chicago.
They found that men with a couple beers under their belts were actually better at solving brain-teasers than their sober counterparts. 
To reach that surprising conclusion, the researchers devised a bar game in which 40 men were given three words and told to come up with a fourth that fits the pattern. 
For example, the word “cheese” could fit with words like “blue” or “cottage” or “Swiss.”
Half the players were given two pints. The other half got nothing. 
The result? Those who imbibed solved 40% more of the problems that their sober counterparts. 
Continued here...
The study also determined that alcohol impairment was detrimental to memory-related tasks, but apparently a benefit to problem solving tasks. No wonder our Founding Fathers where known to gather in taverns.

It seems I have some critical thinking to do tonight.

See "Beer makes men smarter: study" for the complete article.

Friday, April 13, 2012

This Is Cool, Literally

I'm unabashed in my disdain for overly chilled beer, and ice-laden beer glasses, but I would like to try this. Japan's Kirin Brewery has introduced Ichiban Shibori Frozen Draft. LA Weekly reports:
[T]he beer company has developed a special beer foam machine in which "air is blown into the beer to fluff up the head, and then flash chilled" using a a method it calls "Frozen Agitation." 
The resulting head of foam is swirled onto a pint of beer like soft serve dispensed into a waffle cone. At about -5 degrees Celsius/23 degrees Fahrenheit, the foam acts as a "lid" on the beer and will keep it chilled for up to half an hour. This means you can take your time to really savor and appreciate the beer. Or, you do the more fun thing and eat the foam like it's a wonderful cloud of sorbet.

Frankly, I think I'd enjoy a dish of the sorbet-like foam served by itself.

See "Kirin's Frozen Foam Draft Beer: When Beer Meets Soft Serve" for more.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Shot The IDPA Classifier

And made Sharpshooter!

When I shot my first IDPA Classifier two years ago I qualified as Marksman, the entry level classification. After that I participated in a couple of IDPA matches, and then didn't get to anymore IDPA events. I picked it up again last month when I made it down to two matches at Black Creek.

In this recent Classifier I finished with a score of 152.56. Granted, I made it to Sharpshooter by the skin of my teeth, but that's an improvement of over 30 points from my previous score. It was a lot of fun to shoot and I'm pretty pleased. I dropped too many points shooting around the barricade, but I've admitted that issue before. During both of the required reloads with retention I almost dropped the mags to the ground, as I'm used to doing in USPSA matches. The different rules keep you on your toes, and I find I am enjoying the added challenge and variety that comes from shooting both sports.

The IDPA Classifier is a 90-round test of many of the skills used in shooting — drawing, body and head shot combos, multi-target transitions, strong and weak-hand only shooting, movement, reloading, and shooting around walls and barrels. I think I'll be setting it up for some of our practice sessions in the near future.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Capital Ale House Oktoberfest At Risk

It's a story repeated every year. Some downtown Fredericksburg merchants are again complaining about the one-day street party sponsored by Capital House Ale to celebrate Oktoberfest. The event, held annually since 2009, was attended by over 9,000 people last year. However, each year it seems the same merchants raise objections.

Today, a Capital Ale House official was quoted at the news blog, "If it’s not going to benefit us or downtown," president Matt Simmons said Wednesday,  "I don’t think we’d be interested in continuing to do it."

There's a poll too. Go to the link and let your voice be heard.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Monday, April 9, 2012

Vintage 51 & A Lost Rhino Beer

We visited friends in Northern Virginia over the Easter weekend, so broke from our traditional meal at home, and enjoyed a meal out to celebrate. We opted to try out Vintage 51 in South Riding. Sister restaurant to Vintage 50 in Leesburg, Vintage 51 offers family dining in a casual atmosphere. This was a place I've been wanting to try for some time, so was looking forward to our dinner.

Vintage 50 has a brewery onsite. Not so 51, but their online beer menu did list the Vintage 50 Cat IPA. Unfortunately, the house beer was not available. While disappointing, another selection was easy to make. The beer menu at Vintage 51 is well-done, with a wide variety of bottle and draft craft beer choices. I opted for Face Plant IPA, from another Virginia brewery, Lost Rhino in Ashburn. My dining partners also found selections they enjoyed as well. Colleen opted for a draft Allagash White, our friend selected Original Sin Cider.

Lost Rhino Face Plant IPA (Gotta love the name!) pours a hazy copper color with a thin white head. The aroma is stronger on the sweet malt, but with some citrus notes thrown in. It's not heavy in the aroma profile, but pleasing nonetheless. The citrus and bitter hop notes come out more in the flavor. It's still a malt-forward IPA, but with enough bitterness to keep my interest. The bitterness of grapefruit rind lingers in the mouth for a long while. While not extreme in any sense, I found Face Plant to be quite enjoyable. In fact, I finished my glass before we finished our appetizers, and ordered second to enjoy with my meal.

The food menu offers much variety; steaks, sandwiches, salads, pasta, seafood, not to mention plenty of appetizers. We decided to start with a couple of starters, it was a Feast day after all! We selected the Vintage Wings (Buffalo style) and the Onion Rings. The wings were large, meaty and spicy with a nice crispy outside. The Rings were tasty as well; lightly breaded and served with a spicy remoulade. Two winners here.

For my entrée I opted for the Black & Bleu Strip. The streak was coated in Cajun spices and topped with Blue Cheese. I enjoyed the steak very much and the Face Plant IPA went quite well. Colleen ordered the Grilled New York Strip, our son the Pulled Pork BBQ sandwich, while our friend opted for the BBQ Pork Shanks. Every one of the entrées was well-prepared, and no one had any complaints about the food. My son filled up on appetizers so left most of his BBQ sandwich. When he enjoyed it for lunch the next day he remarked that he wanted to back to Vintage 51 soon.

When it came time to think about dessert, we did think about it, but all were too stuffed to make that move. However, we did opt for coffee while we lingered and continued our fun conversations. I am often wary of restaurant coffee. It's very hit or miss I find. Even after a restaurant serves a fine, delicious meal, there's no guarantee the coffee with be any good. I am happy to report that the coffee was hot and very dark French Roast. In fact, it I hadn't had my fill of food and beverage, I would have accepted our server's offer of a refill.

I think the only thing I have not covered is the service. That too was excellent. Justin was attentive and cheerful. We kept him hopping as we lingered between ordering each course. We discussed our experience at Vintage 51 quite a bit after we left. We were unanimous in our opinions. We will definitely be returning when the opportunity presents itself. We've tried a number of local "pubs" while visiting Northern Virginia, and with it's offerings of good craft beer and a well-rounded menu, Vintage 51 might be one of my new favorites.

New Belgium Chooses Asheville

To not great surprise, New Belgium Brewing announced last week that they would be building their East Coast Brewery in Asheville, North Carolina. Virginia was considered early on, but the choices were soon narrowed to Asheville and Philadelphia. CEO Kim Jordan explains the brewery's plans in this video from Beerpulse.

Sierra Nevada Brewing Company also recently announced expansion plans in the Asheville region.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Happy Easter

And on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalen cometh early, when it was yet dark, unto the sepulchre; and she saw the stone taken away from the sepulchre. She ran, therefore, and cometh to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and saith to them: They have taken away the Lord out of the sepulchre, and we know not where they have laid him. ... For as yet they knew not the scripture, that he must rise again from the dead. --John 20: 1-2, 9.

Today of course we know the rest of the story. Our Lord's Resurrection was the crowning moment in man's salvation. It was history's greatest "told you so" moment.

Easter this year holds special significance for me. It was on Easter, ten years ago that I gained the fullness of the Faith, as I was received into the Roman Catholic Church. My conversion, by the grace of God, is a choice for which I will be eternally grateful (literally.)

I wish you a joyful and blessed Easter season.

Greek Orthodox Basilica of Saint George, Madaba, Jordon.
Photo by N. Turley, August 2010.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Taking New Shooters To The Range

I had some coworkers in town last week for meetings. A couple of them inquired if I'd be willing to have a "team building" afternoon at the range. Naturally I obliged. Before I left for work in the morning, I loaded up the gear, along with a couple of paper target stands and one of my steel targets. I figured the steel would be fun if things seemed to be going well. We knocked off early and I took the four of them out for some shooting fun. All said they had shot pistols before, but were not regular shooters. One of them brought along a handgun he owned, but had not fired in at least 5 years. For the other three it had been much longer and I don't think they felt totally comfortable at first. So I treated the outing as an introduction for new shooters.

We started by going over the four safety rules, and then how to operate my Sig P226. Fortunately the other gun brought by my coworker was also a Sig P226, so there was only one manual of arms to go over. (In fact, it was a nice looking, and rarely fired, German rail-less model.)

I had them shoot some USPSA targets at about 7 yards. They all did quite well so we moved back to 10 yards and then they took turns on the steel, which really brought out the smiles. I only took a few shots; deciding to let them have the fun. I preferred to devote my time to being the safety officer and offering tips when I could. I was pleased I had to issue just one reminder about muzzle direction.

While we were back at the bench loading up mags, at 25 yards, I jokingly asked if anyone wanted to try to hit the steel from there. Of course, they all decided that was what they wanted to do! They seemed to be enjoying themselves even when they missed. And when the steel rang out, well...

Before we knew it 400 rounds had been put downrange. I then introduced them to the joys of picking up fired brass.

As you can see in the accompanying photo, not all shots made it quite onto the steel. Looks like I'll be making a run to the home improvement store for some new 2x4 stock. A small sacrifice indeed to share the fun of shooting.

Amazing Grace

A musical interlude for this Holy Saturday.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Another VA Brewery Collaboration

Wild Wolf, Blue Mountain and Devils Backbone breweries in Nelson County are again collaborating. This time they are brewing a Honey Pear Wit Beer. has the story.

See this here to read about previous collaborative efforts by Virginia breweries.

Good Friday

'Nuff said.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

I Need New Socks

Saw these over at the Guns & Coffee blog.

Thanks to Fred for the photo. Be sure to visit his blog for more news on our two favorite brewed beverages.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Woodchuck Belgian White

I first heard about Woodchuck Private Reserve Belgian White a couple of months ago. I was intrigued enough to post the cidery's promotional video here. We added Belgian White to our  "must try" list and waited for this cider to hit local shelves. Recently, sharp-eyed Colleen spied it at our local grocery and brought some home. I finally had an opportunity to sit down and try it out this week.

This interesting style blend between a Belgian Wit and a hard cider pours a cloudy orange color. Carbonation is moderate, but the head is thin and short-lived. The prominent aroma is Belgian-style spice, with coriander in the forefront. Citrus fruit and apple aromas linger in the background. The flavor is, as expected, somewhat unique. The taste is slightly tart, reminiscent of sour apple, with orange and grape notes as well. The spices in the nose carry over to the flavor; coriander and white pepper are notable. The finish is dry with a lingering yeast funk and fruit blend. 

This new release from Woodchuck Cidery blurs the line between beer and cider. And it does so in a winning fashion. Whether you are a fan of ciders, or Belgian beers, or both, seek this out and give it a try. I don't think you'll be disappointed.

April 1st USPSA Match

April 1 marked the second USPSA match of the season for Fredericksburg Practical Shooters. As typical for this event, it was another long day, but the weather couldn't have been more cooperating for a day outdoors. Although it started out cool, the temperature eventually approached 70°. The match consisted of 8 stages in all. We started shooting about 9:00AM. When my squad finished around 4:00PM there were still some folks finishing up. (Note, stage links go to pictures of the course.)

Stage 7 was a particularly fun stage for me. There were as many ways to shoot it as there were shooters. Most of the targets were engaged through portals, and everyone had their own idea on how to approach them. I made my plan and, for a change, stuck with it. I decided to try shooting some of the targets on the move, albeit slowly. (Though after the fact, I don't recall how much I was moving at the time.) This was probably my favorite stage of the event. This stage followed a stage at which I had made many errors, so as I told a squad mate after shooting it, "I owed myself that run." As it turns out, I saw my best finish on this stage, 15th out of the 48 competitors in my division.

The Classifier stage was another fun one. There were four targets, all partially blocked by no shoots. Since I've had run of disappointing classifiers in previous matches, I was very happy to shoot this without incurring any penalties, though I would have liked a few more A-zone hits. My score on this stage should be about in the middle of my "C" classification, but still one of my lower classification percentages. The final stop for our squad was Stage 3, and it was a fun way to end the day. The course of fire was a variation of the classic "Bill Drill' and consisted of two strings. Put 6 fast shots on a single target, reload, and put six shots on another target. The second string was the same on the two remaining targets. Two of the 4 targets had half their area covered which meant slowing down a bit. 

The match had a good combination of "run and gun"courses, as well as "stand and shoot accurately" stages. All the stages were fun and it seemed like folks were especially enjoying themselves. I admittedly pushed it a bit too fast on some of the stages, so took the hit on accuracy. However, to improve I feel I have to push myself out of my comfort zone just a bit. Finding the right balance will be the key. Overall I ended up 25th out of 48 in the Production division. I was a bit disappointed with that, and it shows I need to work on consistency.  I can shoot one stage really well and then totally bork the next. Or I sometimes will shoot mostly A's in a run, and then throw a miss in the middle. But I do see noticeable improvement so far, both in general accuracy and in execution. A key to that is learning to relax a bit, and remember I'm there to have fun. Keeping a smile going after a bad run is important.

I had also volunteered to help set up the match on Saturday afternoon. This was an interesting learning experience as I got to see what goes on in the Match Director's mind as he lays out the stages. It's not just a matter of plopping targets and walls down in random order. Although I must admit that knowing a bit about the fun challenges ahead kept me awake the night. I wasn't nervousness, but instead the excitement of looking forward to shooting the match.

This match fell as early in April as possible, and there's no monthly match in Fredericksburg in May. I'll need to look to some of the other nearby matches to get my next match fix.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Xbox Controller Mods for Shooters

I ran across this article describing some interesting Xbox 360 controller modifications. Replacing the controller buttons with ammo brass is apparently a popular thing to do. The author refers to the replacement buttons as "bullets." I doubt that using bullets would make very useable, and certainly uncomfortable, buttons.

Admittedly, I've played very little Xbox. There are simply too many buttons on the controller for me to track. My son does have a very nice custom controller with lighted buttons, so I'm not sure that this mod would stack up with that. However, we certainly have enough raw material to make our own attempt.

Monday, April 2, 2012

"The Closer" To Open Brewery

Cleveland Indians pitcher Chris Ray will soon open a craft brewery in Ashland, Virginia. reports on the new venture.
Residents of Ashland and Hanover County appreciate a good beer. 
The ubiquitous “golden beverage” is dispensed at barbecues, street parties, crab and shrimp feasts, oyster roasts and tailgating parties throughout the year. 
The finer foreign brews and domestic craft beers are big sellers at local restaurants, pubs super markets and specialty shops like Ian Kirkland’s Caboose. 
Soon, we will have our own craft brewery, one backed by Ashland’s resident Major League Baseball star, Chris Ray, 30, his brother Phil, 34, and their families. 
Although he is better known in the sports world as a pitcher for the Baltimore Orioles, Texas Rangers, San Francisco Giants, Seattle Mariners and now the Cleveland Indians, Ray started making his own beer four years ago and amazes friends and family with his thirst-quenching home-brewed beverages. 
Ray and his family plan to open Center Of The Universe (COTU) Brewing at an undisclosed location near Ashland and the Bass Pro Shops at Winding Brook.

Chris Ray is a relief pitcher who has earned the nickname "The Closer." Center of the Universe Brewing will have a focus on community involvement and charitable activities. Ray has previously brewed "Homefront IPA" in conjunction with Seattle’s Fremont Brewery. The proceeds from the beer’s sales go to Operation Homefront to assist American servicemen and their families facing financial hardships.

See "Baseball pitcher, brother to open brewery in Ashland" for more news on the brewery. There is also a Facebook page where current information is posted.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Revenuers Find Stills. Again.

Agents of the Virginia State Police and the Alcohol Beverage Control Board swooped conducted raids in Franklin, Pittsylvania and Carroll Counties in search of moonshine operations. reports that the agents found and destroyed 25 inactive stills. They also managed to find, again, 15 stills they had destroyed in previous raids. Those stills were still inoperable.

I suspect they are already formulating a plan for next year to track down, again, the 25 stills destroyed in this operation.